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Review: St Petersburg (Summer 2011)

September 25, 2011

(Published in ttgluxury Summer 2011)

With more luxury hotel openings and a flight time of just over three hours, St Petersburg should definitely be on your radar when selling cultural weekend breaks. Matthew Parsons reports

Arriving during May 9 Victory Day celebrations, it felt like the entire city had come to Nevsky Prospect. Checking in at the Corinthia was a particularly welcoming experience, offering refuge from a Russian Champs Elysees.

A grand Champagne Bar (above) – the word “lobby” is banned – steals the show in this hotel, complete with DJ, low-lit bar, framed by sweeping black marble staircases and blue LED lights. Style is matched by substance too, as staff are quick off the mark welcoming guests.

The hotel was refurbished a couple of years ago, and an executive wing was built, including an Executive Club with 95 rooms and 11 suites.

In keeping with other Corinthia hotels – including the latest London property (see page 56) – there’s an emphasis on quality of materials, and design. Rooms are almost identical in design with dark tones, extensive use of mirrors and marble touches.

Meals at its Imperial restaurant are ideal for people watching, as it  overlooks Nevsky Prospect, but it lacks the intimacy of the Executive Club. Exclusive to Executive guests, this club is modern yet cosy, offering complimentary meals and drinks, and excellent service.

A few niggles did exist, such as chasing an ironing board, and missing newspapers, and a surreal moment in the hotel’s “Beerstube” restaurant, listening to a German version of the Birdie Song.

With so much history oozing from every pore and an influx of wealth joining the old-world opulence, St Petersburg is ideal for culture-loving weekend break clients. And if they have any niggles about visas, suggest specialist agency CIBT (uk.cibt.com), which makes the process pain-free.

Prices start from €244 per room, per night, with breakfast.
Tel: 00 7 812 380 2001, corinthia.com/en/stpetersburg

W St Petersburg
Another hotel to claim a prime spot in St Isaac’s Square, alongside the Astoria, Anglettere and an upcoming Four Seasons. With the lobby pumping out pop, purple lighting and MTV screens, first impressions verged on the side of tacky. However, you then ride the (purple-lit) lift to a world of style. Italian decor (B&B Italia), gold lamps, Bliss spa and Alain Ducasse restaurant Mix await. Suggest clients go in June, to savour White Nights al fresco.
Rates start at £193 +18% VAT per night, with breakfast.
Tel: 00 7 812 6106161,
wstpetersburg.com

A day at the museum: Make the most of Regent Holidays’ expertise in the museum field to book a guide for The Hermitage. Guides can usher clients in before opening, allowing them to glide through tourist-free rooms packed full of masterpieces. Regent can organise half-day tours, but advise clients make a full day of it.

Caviar Cocktails: The Grand Hotel Europe is a city classic. Sell its central location, giant fireplace
in the glass-roofed Mezzanine Cafe in the heart of the hotel for winter breaks, antique-laden rooms (book the Pavarotti suite for music fans) – and signature Caviar Cocktail in the Art Noveau-style Caviar Bar & Restaurant (grandhoteleurope.com).

Viva Angleterre: Hotel Angleterre is sister property to the Astoria, and a lighter, more modern affair – but housed in St Petersburg’s oldest original hotel, dating back to 1840. Giant photos of dancers line the corridors, with furnishings in simple red and creams. Restaurant The Cavier Bar, opposite St Isaac’s Cathedral, is ideal for sunset meals and people watching (angleterrehotel.com).

Ra Ra Rasputin: The Astoria was recently home (for six weeks) to Gerard Depar-dieu as he filmed Rasputin. Rooms have classic furnishings, with quirky porthole-style windows. Two spas (Carita, Decleor) compete with blinis and chocolate fountain in the Rotonda Lounge for pure indulgence (thehotelastoria.com).

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